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 Featured Title
Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers
Canada's Second World War
Jeffrey A. Keshen  

$87.00 Hardcover
Release Date: 4/28/2004
ISBN: 9780774809238    

$34.95 Paperback
Release Date: 3/15/2007
ISBN: 9780774809245    

416 Pages

World rights

Studies in Canadian Military History series


About the Book

• Shortlisted, 2005-2006 Raymond Klibansky Prize, The Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences

It was the "Good War." Its cause was just; it ended the depression; and Canada’s contribution was nothing less than stellar. Canadians had every reason to applaud themselves, and the heroes that made the nation proud. But the dark truth was that not all Canadians were saints or soldiers. Indeed, many were sinners.

In this eye-opening and captivating reassessment of Canadian commitment to the cause, some disturbing questions come to light. Were citizens working as hard as possible to back the war effort? Was there illegal profiting from the conflict? Did Canadian society suffer from a general decline of "morality" during the war? Would women truly "back the attack" in new factory jobs and the military, and then quietly return home? Would unattended youth produce a crisis with juvenile delinquency? How would Canada reintegrate a million veterans who, policy-makers feared, would create a social crisis if treated like their Great War counterparts?

The first-ever synthesis of both the patriotic and the problematic in wartime Canada, Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers shows how moral and social changes, and the fears they generated, precipitated numerous, and often contradictory, legacies in law and society. From labour conflicts, to the black market, to prostitution, and beyond, Keshen acknowledges the underbelly of Canada’s Second World War, and demonstrates that the "Good War" was a complex tapestry of social forces - not all of which were above reproach. Essential to both military and social historians, Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers will also prove fascinating to anyone interested in the evolution of Canada’s social fabric.

Shortlisted for the 2005-2006 Raymond Klibansky Prize, presented by the Aid to Scholary Pulibications Programme (ASPP) for the best book subventioned by the programme in the humanities.

Published in association with the Canadian War Museum.

About the Author(s)

Jeffrey A. Keshen is a member of the Department of History at the University of Ottawa.

Table of Contents

Figures, Tables, Illustrations

1. Patriotism
2. Growth, Opportunity, and Strain
3. The Wartime Prices and Trade Board and the Accommodation Crisis
4. Black Market Profiteering: "More than a fair share"
5. (Im)moral Matters
6. Civilian Women: "Two steps forward and one step back"
7. Women Warriors: "Exactly on a par with the men"
8. The Children’s War: "Youth Run Wild"
9. The Men Who Marched Away: "Everyone here is optimistic"
10. A New Beginning: "A very clear tendency to improve upon pre-enlistment status"



I don't know Jeffrey Keshen, but we are enemies now, because he has written the book that I wanted to. Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers is the first comprehensive social history of Canada in the Second World War, and it is a very good one, a fact that only compounds my growing resentment of its author… How we needed this book…. Jeffrey Keshen will long be remembered as the author of the pioneering work.
-- Graham Broad, The Beaver, December 04/January 05

This is a valuable addition to any bookshelf on Canada's experience of the Second World War, filling in the details where many other books about those hectic years only sketch the outlines.
-- Brian Kappler, Montreal Gazette

The author uncovers the seedy underbelly of an era long thought of as one of Canada’s finest. This book is an honest look at how Canadians really were during the war – warts and all.
-- Airforce Magazine, Fall 2004

Keshen’s book is a wonderful and refreshing contribution to our knowledge of war and society in Canada. It is that rare gem that is as rich in detail as it is broad in its historiographical implications. Impressive in its critical use of the available secondary literature, archival holdings, newspapers, and oral interviews, the book’s assertions are generally supported with solid evidence, and particularly rich aggregate statistics. The ample endnotes hold a wealth of interesting and useful information. Keshen’s clear, accessible style and vigorous prose, unencumbered by jargon, make this an important source for students, scholars and an interested general readership. The book bridges the artificial divide which all too often stifles meaningful dialogue between social and military historians, and deserves a wide audience.
-- P. Whitney Lackenbauer – St. Jerome’s University, The Journal of Military History, spring 2004, author of Militarizing Native Lands in Canada, (UBC Press)

Opening up a large number of new questions about the 1940s and, by extension, other periods of the 20th century, Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers will become a standard work in Canadian social history.
-- Terry Copp, author of Fields of Fire: The Canadians in Normandy

Jeffrey Keshen's Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers is an extraordinary look at how Canadians lived, loved, and worked on the homefront during the Second World War. His massive research into the sources that other historians usually skip over has produced the single best study of rapidly changing social values in a time of great crisis that we have. Absolutely first-rate…
-- J.L. Granatstein, author of Canada's Army: Waging War and Keeping the Peace

In Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers, Jeff Keshen provides a groundbreaking examination of the impact of the Second World War on Canadian society by challenging the prevailing popular conception that the events of 1939-1945 constituted Canada’s ‘good war.’

In sum, Saints, Sinners, and Soldiers is an extraordinary piece of scholarship with few discernable flaws. Keshen’s comprehensive analysis is based on an impressive array of archival, secondary, and interview sources, and his prose is clear and lucid. This stimulating book will appeal to both the specialist and the casual reader and should quickly be recognized as the definitive scholarly treatment of the impact of the Second World Was on all sectors of Canadian society.
-- Michael D. Stevenson, McMaster University, The Canadian Historical Review, June 2005

This book is an exceptional synthesis of a wide range of scholarship, focusing on material and moral tensions during wartime Canada. It will be invaluable for teachers and students who want to get a feel for the period and its scholarship.
-- Paul Jackson, McGill University, Histoire Sociale – Social History, May 2005.

Many books have been written about Canada’s Second World War but few have concentrated on the social history aspects of the conflict. Now we have a book that fills much of this gap in the literature … The book is extensively researched, well written, and finely crafted … This is a most comprehensive social history of Canada’s Second World War.
-- N.F. Dreisziger, The International History Review, XXVII. 3: September 2005.

Keshan, in this widely lauded book, has carefully read through a wide variety of government reports and other statistical sources to paint a picture of life in Canada during the war. From economic issues like wage and price controls, along with rationing and profiteering, to social issues like sexual immorality and out of control youth, the perception and the reality are compared.
-- Presbyterian History, Nov 2005.

Published in association with the Canadian War Museum as part of its excellent Studies in Canadian Military History series, Saints, Soldiers, and Sinners is a seminal work in Canadian history. While we can choose from a large number of books written about the strategy, operations and tactics of the Second World War,there has been, other than anecdotal histories, much less written about the conduct and experience of that war away from the battlefields. Jeffrey Keshen’s book is a masterful addition to the literature - well written and distinguished by impeccable, exhaustive scholarship. ... The author does not back away from difficult issues, addressing racism, sexism, propaganda, sexual mores and corruption in a matter-of-fact and balanced way. He pulls no punches, squarely addressing misconduct by civilians at home and by Canadian servicemen and women at home and abroad; ... The interviews and anecdotal material are particularly revelatory, providing a vivid, dynamic counterpoint to the tables, charts and statistics that comprise the hard facts of Keshen’s work. ... The book is very well structured, with an excellent overview provided by the introductory chapter, and book-ended by a nicely synthesized conclusion. In addition, each chapter is also introduced and neatly summarized. Of its 389 pages, 101 are devoted to notes and indexing - this book is designed to be a comprehensive reference while encouraging more inquiry. Almost free of editorial errors, it is attractively laid out, with interesting photographs and useful graphs and tables. It has all the hallmarks of a successful PhD thesis; however, it is skilfully written and easily holds the reader’s interest, even with its gauntlet of facts, numbers and figures. Military history buffs will not find accounts of battles and campaigns in this book. They will, however, find much, much more - the stories of the people who fought and loved during the war, of those who served and those who served themselves. They will discover in this book the social and political antecedents - the prototype - of the Canada in which we live today.
- Major Helga Grodzinski, Canadian Army Journal, Vol.10.2, Summer 2007

Sample Chapter


Related Topics

History > Canada
History > Military

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